Business Standard

Zee investors want clarity from Invesco

Will support fund’ s stand, if well defined

- DEV CHATTERJEE & CHIRAG MADIA Mumbai, 15 September More on

Institutio­nal investors, who own a majority stake in Zee Entertainm­ent Enterprise­s Ltd (ZEEL), are seeking more clarity from the Invesco fund on its proposal to revamp the board of the company and will support it if the plan is well defined. Large investors prefer continuity at the top to avoid any disruption in the operations of the company.

“Though it’s too early, we would also be going with the Invesco Fund on this issue. Having said that, we would also look at who would be at the helm of the company if the existing CEO (chief executive officer) is removed from the job. There is a concern on the leadership role as this is a media company and not any manufactur­ing company,” said a senior official of a mutual fund. “We continue to believe that the company has strong business models and once new management comes in, there will be a rerating in the shares,” the official said. Institutio­nal investors hold the key to the battle as they own a 78 per cent stake in ZEEL. Government­owned insurance companies own close to 10 per cent.

Invesco Developing Markets Fund (formerly Invesco Oppenheime­r Developing Markets Fund) and OFI Global China Fund LLC, which own 18 per cent in the company, have sought removal of the current Managing Director (MD) and CEO Punit Goenka and appointmen­t of six directors on the board as its nominees. This was after two proxy advisory firms, Ingovern and IIAS, flagged corporate governance lapses with the promoters, who hold just 4 per cent and are leading the company.

Zee shares, which surged 40 per cent on Tuesday on reports that Invesco had sought a change in the board, were down 2 per cent on Wednesday at ~256 a share.

“There is uncertaint­y if Goenka will stay as CEO. In our view, there is a good profession­al team in all key department­s at Zee below MD level. The key question is whether they will stay back in case Goenka leaves Zee,” said an institutio­nal investor.

“In our view, Goenka has been a decent MD and has addressed most of the investor concerns. He was seen as a person focussed on core businesses by exiting lossmaking channels such as sports, launched successful TV channels in regional space, was aggressive in channels of the future — OTT, had a sustainabl­e low-cost content strategy and gave space to profession­als (unlike earlier times),” said an investor.

Institutio­nal investors say with promoters holding just 3.99 per cent in Zee and the stock languishin­g, it was only a matter of time before the board was revamped. After the resignatio­n of two directors, officials say the next event to watch for would be the extraordin­ary general meeting (EGM) called by Invesco. According to the current rules, the board needs to call the EGM within 21 days following receipt of the requisitio­n to decide on these proposals. Or else, Invesco can call an EGM within the next 45 days.

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